England boss Gareth Southgate opens up on Arsene Wenger talks – 'Needs a lot more thought'


    Arsene Wenger has met with Gareth Southgate to try to win him and other senior international coaches over to the idea of holding a World Cup every two years.

    The England manager is a big fan of sports being reinvigorated by new formats and new competitions and has enjoyed the addition of The Hundred into cricket.

    However, he fears the FIFA project would be used to overload the players’ calendar further while undermining what makes the World Cup special in the first place.

    In his role as chief of football development, Wenger is leading FIFA’s concerted push to try to shoehorn World Cups into the calendar every two years after 2024.

    The proposal would squeeze the same amount of international football into fewer breaks, with extended qualifying spells in October and March as well as summer tournaments.

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    “I actually met with Arsene a couple of weeks ago,” Southgate said. “He was a meeting a few different coaches so I have a pretty good idea of the proposals.

    “The whole calendar needs to be tidied up and The Hundred in cricket has been an incredible success so I’m open-minded.

    “But I’m intrigued to see what comes out because we can’t keep adding onto the workload of the players – although none of us in the game are holding our hands out for less money, so we also have to accept that comes with a consequence.

    “It’s too complex to say it was all positive or I didn’t agree with it all. There’s too many different strands.

    “As a traditionalist, it feels you could lose some of the allure of the World Cup because the scarcity of it makes it more important.

    “But I also get it that if you are a player who has an injury for the World Cup, you might only get one opportunity every eight years, and that is really tough.

    “I’m not massively pro or negative to the concept, it just needs a lot more thought.”

    Wenger, 71, said recently: “The principle would be a grouping of qualifiers every year and, at the end of the season, a major competition, World Cup or continental championship.

    “Between the two qualifying windows, the player would stay in his club all year.

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    “There must be less of a mix in the calendar between periods of club and international football, and therefore fewer trans-continental trips for the players, for example.

    “For the players, there will be no more matches and there will be compulsory rest after the final stages, at least 25 days.

    “What people want today are high-stakes, easy-to-understand competitions.

    “There is no financial intention behind this. It’s a global project, for men’s, women’s and youth competitions.”

    Though UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in response: “Considering the major impact this may have on the whole of football, there is widespread astonishment that FIFA appears to be launching a PR campaign to push its proposal whilst they have not been presented to the football community.

    “It’s imperative to highlight the concerns regarding the impact a biennial World Cup would have on the international match calendar – prominently in this context on women’s football.”


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